Have We Reached the Age of the Solid-State Battery?

Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD



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Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD

For a long time we have known that the solid-state battery would be the next big step in battery technology. While scientists and researchers have spent many years trying to develop other battery chemistries, the solid-state battery is more likely to bring almost immediate improvements to our energy storage. The other chemistries that scientists are working on may bring longer term benefits over Li-ion batteries, such as being lower cost, safer, more energy dense and using fewer rare materials, but Li-ion technology offers the best all-round performance that we have now.

Solid-state batteries take Li-ion technology a step further and as well as having higher energy density, they will have an immediate safety benefit. Li-ion batteries currently can combust or even explode when they have been mishandled, or in some cases spontaneously. Even if Li-ion batteries do not catch fire, they still contain a caustic liquid electrolyte that can leak. This has hampered the EV industry in particular, as bad news hasn’t been slow to spread of incidents where EVs have burst into flames, or ships transporting EVs and storage facilities catching fire. Solid-state batteries prevent that happening by their construction. Further, by not being combustible, solid-state batteries do not need encased in metal like liquid electrolytes to prevent major damage or contain the electrolyte. This means batteries can be lighter, more flexible and come in convenient shapes.

Almost all major car manufacturers are either developing their own solid-state batteries or have formed partnerships with companies that are developing them. For example, Toyota has been working on solid-state batteries since 2012 and gained over 1,000 patents in the area. It has formed a partnership with Panasonic called Prime Planet Energy & Solutions Inc. which currently has over 5,000 employees. The company hopes to have its automobiles with solid-state batteries on the road by the middle of this decade. Volkswagen looks to get vehicles powered by solid-state batteries on the road even quicker, with a target of 2024, through the company’s partnership with QuantumScape. 

However, one small company may beat the automotive giants to the punch with a production ready solid-state battery. Bonn-based company High Performance Battery (HPB) has developed a battery it says is ready to be manufactured. Independent testing has shown the potential of sold-state batteries with data showing significantly better specifications over Li-ion batteries.

The new HPB battery has been tested to 12,500 charging cycles, which is around ten times the longevity of conventional Li-ion batteries with a comparable load. Because of that longer life, the batteries will need replaced less often, leading to far less environmental impact. The materials needed to construct the battery are also readily available. As EV owners know, Li-ion batteries don’t perform well in cold weather. The HPB batteries tested show a higher conductivity at -40 °C than conventional liquid electrolytes at their optimal value at 60 °C, meaning better overall performance.